July 31, 2007


We had to say goodbye to our sweet Alafair this afternoon. She was in too much pain to keep trying and she really let us know it was time.

Thanks to all for their thoughts and prayers. This is part of life that sucks.

We will miss her so much. She was the sweetest dog I think I have ever met. She loved people and as one of my friends noted, brought joy wherever she went. Being around her made you smile.

We will miss you, Alafair. We love you.


This morning was horrible. She was in so much pain. We asked our vet what he would do if it were his dog, and he wants to give it a few more hours to see if we can manage the pain and make her comfortable so we can pursue some possible treatment. If that doesn't work, we are going to have to let her go. We will know probably around noon if the pain management is working. I know in the world of tragedy this is just our dog, but it is our Alafair--faithful, loving and amazing friend for 10 years.

Thanks to everyone for their prayers and thoughts. Monk-in-Training's prayer was on my mind throughout the morning.

July 30, 2007

Alafair update

Not too much to tell so far. This morning was pretty awful as she was in some pain, but the vet made her comfortable and is now trying to figure out the cause. Not sure when we will know.

July 29, 2007

Keep a good thought for our dog Alafair

We took her into an emergency vet clinic this afternoon and they are keeping her overnight. Not sure what is causing the problem, and it could be serious and it could be manageable.

Needless to say, I won't be too available for a while.

Please keep a good thought.

July 28, 2007

John Dilulio finally speaks

Dilulio was one of those who thought the President was earnest when he talked about "compassionate conservatism." And he notes, Bush has done much to help in world Aids crisis and has actually increased some funding for poorer schools. But that is it. In most other areas, poverty is winning, and Bush seems resolute to be more helpful to the rich.
Bush's stand on insurance plan contradicts words of compassion | Inquirer | 07/26/2007:
On the other hand, poverty rates have risen in many cities. In 2005, Washington fiddled while New Orleans flooded, and the White House has vacillated in its support for the region's recovery and rebuilding process. Most urban religious nonprofit organizations that provide social services in low-income communities still get no public support whatsoever. Several recent administration positions on social policy contradict the compassion vision Bush articulated in 1999.

In May, Bush rejected a bipartisan House bill that increased funding for Head Start, a program that benefits millions of low-income preschoolers. His spokesmen claimed the bill was bad because it did not include a provision giving faith-based preschool programs an absolute right to discriminate on religious grounds in hiring.

That reason reverses a principle Bush proclaimed in his 1999 speech: "We will keep a commitment to pluralism, not discriminating for or against Methodists or Mormons or Muslims, or good people of no faith at all." As many studies show, most urban faith-based nonprofits that serve their own needy neighbors do not discriminate against beneficiaries, volunteers or staff on religious grounds. These inner-city churches and grassroots groups would love to expand Head Start in their communities.

Last week, Bush threatened to veto a bipartisan Senate plan that would add $35 billion over five years to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The decade-old program insures children in families that are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but are too poor to afford private insurance. The extra $7 billion a year offered by the Senate would cover a few million more children. New money for the purpose would come from raising the federal excise tax on cigarettes.

Several former Bush advisers have urged the White House to accept some such SCHIP plan. So have many governors in both parties and Republican leaders in the Senate. In 2003, Bush supported a Medicare bill that increased government spending on prescription drugs for elderly middle-income citizens by hundreds of billions of dollars. But he has pledged only $1 billion a year more for low-income children's health insurance. His spokesmen say doing any more for the "government-subsidized program" would encourage families to drop private insurance.

But the health-insurance market has already priced out working-poor families by the millions. With a growing population of low-income children, $1 billion a year more would be insufficient even to maintain current per-capita child coverage levels. Some speculate that SCHIP is now hostage to negotiations over the president's broader plan to expand health coverage via tax cuts and credits. But his plan has no chance in this Congress; besides, treating health insurance for needy children as a political bargaining chip would be wrong.

July 27, 2007

Gonzales is undermatched

New meme from conservatives--mark this down. Watching Chris Matthews tonight, saw a Republican suggest that Gonzales is a fine lawyer, just doesn't have the skills to match up to a Leahy or Shumer.

How about he is just incompetent?

Colliding Galaxies

Real Live Preacher:
"In his book 'Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time,' Marcus Borg describes the confusion and trauma that occurred when his childish images of Jesus collided with the scientific worldview of our culture. As I read his words, I felt like he was telling my own story. How well I remember when that collision began."

Friday morning

The Bush White House looks scarier and scarier as time goes on. By telling Gonzales not to honor contempt charges, they are essentially claiming the "right to determine the limits of their own power." I can't remember who wrote that, but it absolutely nails the problem. In a real democracy, Bush allows this to go forward and let the courts decide if he deserves executive priviledge. Instead, he says that when he claims it, that is the end and there is nothing Congress can do. Reminds me of Nixon saying "When the President does it, that means it isn't illegal." Bush appears to be daring Congress to impeach him--knowing that he has the votes to survive it. Ah, another little gift from Republicans--impeaching Clinton essentially saving a far worse President from legitimate impeachment.

Instead, I wish they would go after Gonzo, as I have said before. And his latest debacle of testimony might provide that possibility.
"It's been pretty clear for a while that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has repeatedly lied to investigative committees on Capitol Hill. But yesterday he took that fateful step of making a false statement about an event in which there are multiple fact witnesses available to contradict him. Indeed, the falsehood was apparently so great that even fellow members of the administration like FBI Chief Robert Mueller felt bound to contradict him publicly."
Now, the Dems are pushing for a Special Counsel and hoping that Solicitor General Paul Clement is not as corrupt as Albert Gonzales or his bosses. We shall see.

I was talking with my friend Mary yesterday about Gonzales' testimony and we agreed that had we performed that badly on national television, we would take out a full page ad in the NY Times and apologize for being so stupid.


Anne Marie Cox had a funny line about checks and balances:
"You know if the Senate would just call it 'legislative waterboarding' and not 'oversight,' I bet they could get Cheney to support it."
It would be funnier if it weren't so scary. How bad does it have to be when we joke about an American administration that tortures?


Yesterday, I posted some more Conservatives who have lost faith in this administration. The list is growing.
"One of us was appointed commandant of the Marine Corps by President Ronald Reagan; the other served as a lawyer in the Reagan White House and has vigorously defended the constitutionality of warrantless National Security Agency wiretaps, presidential signing statements and many other controversial aspects of the war on terrorism. But we cannot in good conscience defend a decision that we believe has compromised our national honor and that may well promote the commission of war crimes by Americans and place at risk the welfare of captured American military forces for generations to come."


Then this truly horrific possibility that Pat Tillman might have been murdered. No wonder Bush has invoked executive privilege on this subject as well. Hard enough to use a former NFL star to sell a war when he was killed by friendly fire. Harder still if one of his fellow soldiers fragged him.

No doubt that peopel in power work very hard to keep control of their image and their power. Bush is not unique to this, but his administration has been the most secretive in history and we need to shed a little daylight on some of the things that occurred under his watch. Many of them are not his fault, I am sure. But we need to know about this. Truth is like freedom, it is always harder to handle than the alternative, but usually better.

July 26, 2007

I have been busy

Trying to keep Abbie from completely taking over. Of course, I have failed on that front. But the good news is that she and I are enrolled in obedience training. In a couple of weeks, I am confident that I will obey better.

But the news just keeps happening and I keep up with most of it. Yesterday, I kept track on Al Gonzales' testimony before the Senate and it was truly amazing. If you didn't watch, TPM has a good rundown with clips. Gonzales' incompetence is truly amazing. He lies constantly, and lies badly. At times, you wonder if he isn't just making stuff up.

TPM has some concerns that this has long standing consequences that really need to be addressed now:
"Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn't apply to them.

If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed."
And that is my fear as well. I think, for example, that there is a good possibility that our next President might be Hillary Clinton. Will she embrace that expanded power of the President? Why do conservatives not fear that? Where is the damn principled conservatism?

At least some are starting to see what many of us have been yelling about. Here is a list from conservative Rod Dreher of things he no longer believes:
"1. Having been absolutely certain that the war was the right thing to have done, and that we would prevail easily, I am no longer confident that I can discern when emotion is affecting my judgment unduly.

2. I no longer implicitly trust governmental institutions, including the military -- neither in their honesty nor their competence.

3. I no longer believe the Republican Party is superior in foreign policy judgment to the Democrats.

4. I no longer have confidence in the ability of our military, or any military, to solve deep cultural and civilizational problems through force alone. I mean, I thought nothing could stand in the way of the strongest military fielded since the days of ancient Rome. No more.

5. I have a far greater appreciation for how rare and fragile liberal democracy is, and a corresponding revulsion at the American assumption that it's the natural state of mankind. Which is to say, the war has made me rethink my ideas about human nature, and I'm far more pessimistic now than I ever was."

July 22, 2007


I like sports and watch the big events when I can. I rarely watch a regular golf tournament, but enjoy watching the majors. I like the drama of people competing under pressure. So this weekend (with SOF out of town) I have tried to watch the British Open--when I am not chasing Abbie around, that is. And as I write this, I am hoping that Sergio will pull it off. I know CIL doesn't like him, but I don't mind the Spaniard. I like his game.

But there are a few annoyances from this Open coverage. First is the play of some American named Boo Weekley. I was recently chastized for my anti-Southern attitude, but people like Weekley don't help. Not only does he seem to embrace the kind of anti-intellectual disdain for language, but he doesn't even like golf that much. He has no sense of the history of the game--doesn't watch it, and has no clue who some of these people are. Perhaps, especially given my next complaint, I should enjoy someone who disdains the pomp of golf history, but it annoys me that someone who seems to disrespect the game so much--is still good enough to be a pro player and play on this kind of stage. Or perhaps that is just jealousy on my part. Perhaps I resent someone who doesn't even care that much about something he can play at a professional level, while most of us aren't that good at what we truly care about. Oh well.

But the second item is most annoying. This year, the Open is at Carnoustie, so the inevitable Jean Van de Velde discussions are to be expected. Those who don't watch golf (Boo) might even remember the monumental collapse on the last hole from 1999. Van de Velde played aggressively that hole with a several stroke lead (I think it was three), hit several bad shots, and had some very bad luck as well. He ended up losing the tournament in a playoff.

Of course, the coverage would talk about it. It was a memorable moment at this particular course. But the American coverage (which is all I get) of the Van de Velde story was simply horrible. The last few days, ABC ran an extensive look at that last hole--complete with commentators at the time and now calling Van de Velde stupid. This morning, ABC interviewed the man himself and made it clear that they demanded and insisted that Van de Velde be ashamed of losing. He kept reminding them that it was a game--that he would have liked to have won, but there were more important things. ABC would have none of it. Be ashamed. Of course, they also raved about Boo Weekley's "honesty." Whatever that means.

Oh well.

July 20, 2007

Impeachment may be the only option

Translation: Attorney General works for the President--NOT the country, and Congress has no authority to check or balance the Executive. You know, because he is King.

Read it and weep for our democracy.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege.

July 19, 2007

Young Republican Chickenhawks

Interesting video by Max Blumenthal interviewing Young Republicans and asking them why they support the war so fervently yet are not serving. Is it fair? You be the judge.

Is Bush actually David Simms?

In the film Tin Cup, our hero tries to warn the damsel that her boyfriend hates "old people, children and dogs." Now George Bush is threatening to veto a plan to expand insurance coverage for children. Yeah, that's right. Children who don't have insurance. And Bush says that it is because it will encourage people to forego private insurance in favor of government insurance. Better to have no insurance at all, I guess than to dare expand coverage.

President Bush yesterday rejected entreaties by his Republican allies that he compromise with Democrats on legislation to renew a popular program that provides health coverage to poor children, saying that expanding the program would enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private insurance.

The president said he objects on philosophical grounds to a bipartisan Senate proposal to boost the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. Bush has proposed $5 billion in increased funding and has threatened to veto the Senate compromise and a more costly expansion being contemplated in the House.

"I support the initial intent of the program," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post after a factory tour and a discussion on health care with small-business owners in Landover. "My concern is that when you expand eligibility . . . you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government."

Forgiveness indeed!

H/t to Ubub for this spot on critique of Bush/immigration/David Vitter. Yeah, that's right. All in one.

"Didn't want to hear the science"

I blogged about former Surgeon General Richard Carmona saying that the Bush people muzzled him. What I didn't realize was the extent. Last night's Daily Show pointed out this little story
For example, he said he wasn't allowed to make a speech at the Special Olympics because it was viewed as benefiting a political opponent. However, he said was asked to speak at events designed to benefit Republican lawmakers.
Evidently that refers to the Kennedy's long standing support for Special Olympics. Just think of that. Bush people would rather spite a political enemy than support Special Olympians? WWJD?

Interesting little note about Koop's tenure as SG and his relationship with Reagan. Makes Ronnie look about ten times more principled than George.
Koop is probably the most recognized former surgeon general. He talked about AIDS as a public health issue rather than a moral issue, which won him many admirers and some critics. He said President Reagan was pressed to fire him every day, but Reagan would not interfere.

Back to Carmona.
Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.

"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are."

He refused to identify the officials who sought the changes.
But his name rhymes with Sharl Trove.
Carmona said he believed the surgeon general should show leadership on health issues. But his speeches were edited by political appointees, and he was told not to talk about certain issues. For example, he supported comprehensive sex education that would include abstinence in the curriculum, rather than focusing solely on abstinence.

"However, there was already a policy in place that didn't want to hear the science, but wanted to quote, unquote preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect," Carmona said.
Politics first, policy second, and science dead last. Exactly what we have feared from these people, but time after time, report after report, event after event, we see exactly that. As this (Madison, WI) letter to the editor reminded us:
"Instead of putting experienced foreign affairs people in jobs to handle the Iraqi transition from Saddam Hussein to some form of democracy, the administration filled those jobs with inexperienced, mostly young people, whose only qualification was that they were doctrinaire Republicans. "
This administration has inflicted such great damage on our national security, our international standing, our public health, our environment, our social contract, our constitutional standards, our political system, etc., etc.. As Dave Zweifel (our letter writer and Capital Times editor) put it:
If lying about sex gets you impeached, what do we do with an administration whose lies have led to a world calamity and whose ideology trumps even common sense? The answer couldn't be more clear.

July 17, 2007

A question of character

I remember Paul O'Neill telling a story about observing CEOs and how they interacted with their staff. Before he would ok a merger with that company, he wanted to see the character of the leader. If the CEO was dismissive of the staff, that was a red flag character issue. He related the story of how Bush treated Andrew Card (his chief of staff at the time) as a serf--ordering Card to fetch him some food. O'Neill recalled how distasteful that was and the lack of character it revealed in our President.

This late into such a failed Presidency, we really don't have to search for more examples, but the way the President points fingers at others is just a HUGE character flaw that I cannot believe he still has even 25% approval.

Witness last week's press conference where Bush throws Tommy Franks under the bus.
Last week, Bush rejected any blame for the chaos that ensued in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion. So whose fault was it? Bush pointed the finger at Gen. Tommy Franks, the Central Command chief at the time. "My primary question to General Franks was, do you have what it takes to succeed? And do you have what it takes to succeed after you succeed in removing Saddam Hussein? And his answer was, yes," Bush said.

That's the same Tommy Franks to whom Bush awarded a Medal of Freedom in 2004.

And when virtually all of Bush military line of command, including the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, opposed his "surge" proposal late last year, Bush responded not by listening, but by removing the top two commanders responsible for Iraq and replacing them with more amenable leaders, including Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus.

That is a lack of character.

July 14, 2007

Peggy Noonan thinks Bush is deluded

Seriously. She is saying the same stuff now that many of us here have been saying for 6+ years. Here she addresses what she says "used to be called" the Bush Derangement Syndrome (what you and I call "common sense"):
That phrase suggested that to passionately dislike the president was to be somewhat unhinged. No one thinks that anymore. I received an email before the news conference from as rock-ribbed a Republican as you can find, a Georgia woman (middle-aged, entrepreneurial) who'd previously supported him. She said she'd had it. "I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth." I was startled by her vehemence only because she is, as I said, rock-ribbed. Her email reminded me of another, one a friend received some months ago: "I took the W off my car today," it said on the subject line. It sounded like a country western song, like a great lament.

As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president's seemingly effortless high spirits. He's in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn't seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn't Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president's since polling began. He's in a good mood. Discuss.

Is it defiance? Denial? Is it that he's right and you're wrong, which is your problem? Is he faking a certain steely good cheer to show his foes from Washington to Baghdad that the American president is neither beaten nor bowed? Fair enough: Presidents can't sit around and moan. But it doesn't look like an act. People would feel better to know his lack of success sometimes gets to him. It gets to them.

A mild and cute complication

As if our lives weren't complicated enough, we decided to add another urchin to the family. Her name is Abbie and she was living at a local animal shelter until yesterday. She has worked her way into the family with startling ease--well, at least she has the humans well trained. The cats are still trying to figure out what she is, and the dogs are mildly annoyed at her casual flaunting of local rules and regulations.

Streak was really annoyed at her yesterday and kept giving me the "why do you hate me so much?" look last night. This morning, I took him with me to get coffee (he had a decaf soy latte*), and he was as happy as could be. The moment we came back inside, he had that disgusted "What is she still doing here?" look.

But given the complexities of the pack dynamics, all is well so far.

(*Of course, I am joking. Streak only drinks black coffee with a shot of espresso. I think he calls it a "depth charge")

July 13, 2007

See, this is just funny

Family Values Senator David Vitter
has given a whole new meaning to roll call. Deborah Jean Palfrey (aka DC Madam) placed five phone calls to Vitter while he was a House member from 1999 to 2001, including two during roll call votes in the House that Vitter was present for, according to Palfrey's phone records and congressional records. Meanwhile, another name has appeared on the list that keeps on giving; this time it is conservative pundit and strategist Jack Burkman. (Boston Globe, Think Progress)"
Of course, Vitter was one of the Republican Right shocked, SHOCKED that Bill Clinton was sexually active outside his marriage and saying that he had lost the moral standing to govern.

Meanwhile, conservatives on the MSM asked why we were wasting time on this story when there were so many more important ones out there. The same conservatives, however, didn't mind the Monica stories before. The same conservatives who now say that this is focusing on sexual issues instead of political issues forget that they changed the rules. They politicized sex and morality and now are wondering why they are suddenly being hoisted by their own petard. Whatever the hell that is.

Meanwhile, the rest of us chuckle each time a self-righteous bastard is caught calling a hooker from the House floor. It is just too funny.

Friday morning rant/fatigue/stop raining dammit!

More rain. Argh. So this Friday I look at the world through dreary eyes--sleep deprived eyes.

Building on last night's post on this problematic president, a couple of notes.

First, from yesterday's presser when the President defended his commutation of Scooter's "excessive sentence" he drew the attention of the Republican judge who laid down that sentence.
Also yesterday, Bush's statement that he had commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence because it was "excessive" drew a quizzical response from the trial judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton. In an opinion ordering Libby to begin serving supervised probation, Walton noted that the prison term was "consistent with the bottom end" of federal sentencing guidelines.

"The court is somewhat perplexed as to how its sentence could accurately be characterized as excessive," Walton wrote.

"Although it is certainly the president's prerogative to justify the exercise of his constitutional commutation of power in whatever manner he chooses," Walton wrote, ". . . the court notes that the term of incarceration imposed in this case was determined after a careful consideration of each of the requisite statutory factors."

Bush did not discuss his reasoning in depth yesterday. "It's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House, and it's run its course and now we're going to move on," he said.
Yeah, move on. Nothing to see here.

Add to that Bush's statement:
"I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, 'I did it.' Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter?"
That would be a great question to pose to your chief political advisor, wouldn't it, George? Wouldn't you like to ask Karl if he could have stopped all this investigation?


But this is the guy who constantly refers to "his government." Remember when Leahy chastized Taylor for saying she took an "Oath to the President?" Well, an alert Sullivan reader points out that this is typical for this President:
"This president often mentions his oath but never talks about protecting the constitution. On the contrary, he regularly talks about his oath to protect the people, or to protect America. But it's possible to justify any number of tyrannies in the name of protecting the people."
There seems to be a big disconnect between this President and our basic constitutional principles.


On issues of feminism, a couple of notes. First, from the ridiculous world of beauty pageants comes the even more ridiculous story about Miss New Jersey having to beg to keep in the pageant after having the audacity of horsing around with friends fully clothed. She is blackmailed by someone and then has to plead for her position and admit that what she did was not very ladylike. Whatever.

But then again, there is this story about a Taekwondo star who took up the sport to get her father's attention. You see, Daddy dearest didn't care about his daughter when all she did was excel in academics. But once she started sports, then he became aware. The entire story is sad--in how it is written and the glimpse into an aspect of masculinity that most of us thought was a relic of the past.

July 12, 2007

System Quarterback

I think people used to give Bush too much credit as a good politician. Some seemed to see him as some kind of political genius--able to speak to the masses in ways that the punditry didn't understand. It seems clear to me that the opposite is true.

In fact, if you pardon a sports metaphor, he is what some would call a "system quarterback." When managed by the people around him, he can deliver adequate results, but when the system breaks down, you see that he has no real skills of his own. Some have enjoyed decent careers and one (at least) won a Super Bowl, but none that I know of are truly great quarterbacks.

With Bush, we should have seen that coming. He was unable to muster anything beyond family contacts as businessman, or governor, or running for President. What he had in 2000 and 2004, however, was a packaged system where his weaknesses became his strengths. His inabiliy to speak; unwillingness to discuss details; and no real experience--became his advantage in 2000. That same system manipulated the fears of a nation in 2004 and used his same weaknesses to their advantage.

But the system has failed. No offensive line and what scorers he once enjoyed are now injured or gone. Now the weaknesses are apparent and the supposed strengths are gone. We now see his true political instinct and absent the machine, he looks like a bumbling, self-deluded man.

Witness today's presser where the President defended his war policies. There were many problems, but this exchange stuck out in my mind. When asked about his decision making, Bush responded:
And so, when it's all said and done, if you ever come down and visit the old, tired me down there in Crawford, I will be able to say, I looked in the mirror and made decisions based upon principle, not based upon politics.

And that's important to me.
Clearly not true. Not Bush-bashing to say that he has clearly made decisions that were politically motivated. He clearly lies when he says that he listens to the generals on the field when he has clearly fired those who don't agree with him. But he clearly believes what he has told himself.

He has no clear sense that he is a weak-armed quarterback with no mobility who should have never been made starter in the first place. If only we could bench Bush as easily as a real "system quarterback."

American decline

The Washington Note: "I've just returned from Berlin and am scribbling a brief note from JFK Airport in New York.

One of the unavoidable impressions I got from Europeans and particularly Germans during this trip is that there is widespread regret that America has slipped off its pedestal as a largely benign superpower that promoted liberty and economic opportunity. The dollar's decline against the euro has only reinforced a widespread view that America can't afford its global pretensions any longer. While America remains important, it is clear to everyone that it is less so.

And the Germans are angry at Bush and America as a whole for so badly screwing up a number of collective efforts -- particularly on climate change -- but also in the Middle East. They are angry that Europe is not in a position to fill the void America is leaving and focus their frustration not on their own leadership problems but at the U.S. for undermining the dynamics of global order."


Bush's the One - By Bruce Reed - Slate Magazine: "In a remarkable historical coincidence, those same two records that were under assault in 1974 are on the ropes again in 2007. The sports world is already dreading the day Barry Bonds will pass Aaron. But the political world has scarcely noticed another milestone in the making: With 66% disapproval in this week's Gallup Poll, George W. Bush just tied Richard Nixon as the second-most unpopular president ever."

Cool stuff

Usually I vent my rage at the Republican attempt to ruin our nation. This post is about useful consumer goods (and most consumer goods are not that useful) that I have actually used and approve of. © Streak approved, in other words.

Item number one comes thanks to Anglican (check out his great "cell phone" youtube post). Anglican alerted me to this amazing Tornado Notebook Chill Pad
that provides an inexpensive way to manage the heat of most laptops. It plugs into a usb port and runs a fan to dramatically reduce the laptop's generated heat and presumably improve the lifespan of the computer. I now use it regularly and can now put my macbook on my lap in the summer. Summer!


Next item is for those of us who shave--male and female. I found this on another blog (last year sometime) and have used the product for the last 6 months. I won't go back to regular shaving cream after using it and no longer need to buy the aftershave products. They have a free sample if you are interested. The "his" has more menthol, but both work very well and Streak approves this message.

July 11, 2007

Republican Family values and Bush felony

I really get a kick when a "family values" Republican gets caught--as David Vitter did this week with the DC madam. And there are allegations that he had a long standing relationship with a prostitute in New Orleans. And seriously, who would care if the man hadn't been one of those defending "traditional marriage" so self-righteously.


From the Talking Points Memo a suggestion that Bush telling Miers and Sara Taylor not to testify is a possible felony (paging Steve S for a legal reading):
"Invoking a privilege is one thing, but telling a person not to show up in response to a subpoena -- if only to actually invoke the privilege -- is quite another. It's not just worse, it's a felony under federal criminal law. See for yourself.

18 U.S.C. Sec. 1505 : ... Whoever corruptly ... influences, obstructs, or impedes ... the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress ... [s]hall be fined under this title, [or] imprisoned not more than 5 years ... or both.

18 U.S.C. Sec. 1515(b): As used in section 1505, the term 'corruptly' means acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including ... withholding, [or] concealing ... information."


And lastly, Lady Bird Johnson passes away. She was 94. RIP.

Oath to the President?

Watch Leahy point out the obvious.

News review

Here are some news items that I found very interesting. Some of them didn't seem to attract the kind of attention I think they deserved. For example, when a sitting US Attorney writes a Denver Post oped entitled, Bush justice is a national disgrace, that strikes me as interesting. John S. Koppel begins strong:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.
The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.
And ends with a dare:
I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.

Add to that the recent allegations about Gonzales:
In March, and again last month, the Justice Department's inspector general and internal FBI reviews found that the bureau repeatedly misused its Patriot-Act power to subpoena e-mail or financial records without court orders. But years before the reviews were completed -- and word of them became public -- Attorney General Gonzales knew that the abuses surrounding so-called National Security Letters existed. And yet this is what he told Congress on April 27, 2005: "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse."
John Koppel couldn't be more right. And I still don't understand why congress doesn't go after impeaching Gonzales rather than trying to muster the political capital to drag out a lengthy affair against Bush or Cheney (even as Cheney's favorability falls to 13%). Impeach Gonzo and you then force Bush to appoint a real AG. Then watch Cheney run to his bunker with his man-safe.

So Bush and his people have been accused of the same thing that Clinton's detractors claimed--politicization of policy. Yet, it is clear that while Clinton might have edged that way, he didn't come close to the Bush/Cheney record. Who can forget his FDA nominees and the efforts to squelch climate change scientists. Yesterday, I read (and saw again this morning on Melissa Rogers) the story that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona--a Bush appointee, no less--is accusing the administration of politicizing medicine.
Former Bush surgeon general says he was muzzled:WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first U.S. surgeon general appointed by President George W. Bush accused the administration on Tuesday of political interference and muzzling him on key issues like embryonic stem cell research.

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the nation's top doctor from 2002 until 2006, told a House of Representatives committee.

"The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party," Carmona added.
None of this surprises me, and much like Colin Powell, I wonder where these people were in 2004 when we had a chance to nip this disaster. Where was Powell when the Swift Boaters went after Kerry? Where was Carmona when Bush was pandering to the religious right?

July 10, 2007

Home improvement Monday

Yesterday was a long and profanity-laced day. Not necessarily a bad day, but it was long. Finally, after years of procrastination, I finished the insulation in the attic and added some to the kitchen walls as well. I insulated the back part of the house a few years back with the assistance of a neighbor's machine. Unable to coordinate with that neighbor, I decided to use the Home Depot machine. Here is how my day went. (Just remember the profanity part.)

7:00 coffee with SOF before she left for an early meeting.

7:30 drove to Home Depot to get the machine and insulation. Glad I still have the truck.

8:00 realize on the way home that this machine is really heavy and that the lady at the service desk hadn't been kidding when she said it was a 2 or 3 person job.

8:15 Arrived home and investigated machine closer. Has an on-off switch on the side. Little poster says, "the hose is the only thing you take into the attic." Yeah? Well who is going to turn the damn thing on and off? Even with two people, this would be a hassle (especially when blowing into the walls). Dammit.

8:30-8:50 perused yellow pages looking for options and searched my brain for any friends around who might have the flexibility to help me during a week day.

9:15 Yoga. Almost skipped, but realized I needed to go. Not only did we blow bubbles outside before class (don't ask), but class was great and really helped me clear my mind. During meditation, I figured out how to fix my problem and left class ready to go.

10:45 purchased extra extension cord to fashion my own remote control for this beast. One cord plugged into the power source, one into the machine and an extra surge protector (with its own problem as you will see later) gave me a handy switch.

11:15 realized I didn't have goggles to protect from the attic dust. Shit. Off to the store again.

11:30 trying to move everything around the garage and hit one of the beers I made last year (got a wild yeast in it which made it foamy and undrinkable). Bottle shatters with a sound like a damn gun going off. Shit.

11:45 trying to get the cords, surge protector, and hose into the attic. Dropped extension cord. Profanity. Climbed down to retrieve. Back up ladder.

11:50 hit head on rafter. F#@k!

11:51 hit head again on rafter. Are you f*#king kidding me? Dogs howl from below.

12:00-1:30 Actually added insulation to the attic. This machine was much slower than my friends and I had to constantly climb down the ladder to refill, but it worked well enough.

1:30 went back to Home Depot for more insulation and started on the walls. Now we are having fun. The hose attachment narrows to 1 inch and so easily plugs when the recycled paper and stuff gets a clump. And there are a lot of clumps. F*%king lot of clumps. Add to that I had to stand on one of our taller chairs to reach the wall in the back of the cabinet and this meant jumping down and unclogging and then back up. Let's just say I got my workout.

2:00 jumping, standing, unclogging, refilling machine. Swearing. Machine is slow and takes forever to fill wall cavity. At one point, I crawl under house (which gives me heebyjeebies) to make sure I not dumping paper insulation into the crawl space (I wasn't). Making a bigger mess than I wanted to, so retrieve shop vac to hold next to drill when making the holes. That helps, but one time when I thought I had two holes on either side of a stud, blowing insulation into one resulted in insulation blowing out other hole. You know I was swearing then.

3:00 Biggest profanity laced event came when jumping back onto chair holding the blower hose and my jerry-rigged remote. Accidentally hit switch. Machine turns on. Hose was not in the wall, but pointed randomly in kitchen. F*#king insulation everywhere.

3:10 Shop vac very handy and worst is cleaned up rather fast. Of course, one of my hankerchiefs on the floor also sucked up by shop vac. F*@K!!!!!

3:20 Calmer and ready to continue. Few holes later, drop my remote/surge protector while on the chair. Swearing, I get down and realize I had unplugged the extension cord. While reconnecting brain slowly wonders if one side of the surge protector was "switched" and one was "unswitched." Brain sluggishly connects dots as reconnecting plug results in another spray of f*@king paper through kitchen. At this point, more tired than anything and so it almost funny. Almost.

5:00 finally finished. First good thing happens when local high schooler raising money for weight lifting equipment comes by. I give him some money and he helps me load machine in the truck. Yay. I race machine to Home Depot and come home to help SOF clean up rest of my mess.

6:00 comes the deluge. While we are waiting for our delivered Chinese food, the rain comes in buckets. Our power goes out. It is really funny by then. But we are both inside and dry, and the machine is safely returned to Home Depot so we sit in the dark, listen to Terry Gross and watch the rain.

9:00 still no power. After all the rain we received in the last two months, this is our first extensive power outage. We sit out on the front porch and light a chimenea fire. It was nice and peaceful until the mosquitoes drove us inside.

10:00 power back on, but Daily Show is a rerun. Jon!!!!!!

Storms through night keep us awake and we both start Tuesday tired. I am very sore. But the insulation is done. Yay.

July 9, 2007

Michael Moore demands apology from Wolf Blitzer

I am not a Michael Moore fan. I liked TV Nation, but have found him a bit polemical. But I am hearing interesting buzz about "Sicko" and have to say that I like this exchange with Wolf Blitzer:
Moore: Why don’t you tell the truth to the American people? I mean I wish that CNN and th eother mainstream media would just for once tell the truth….You fudged the facts about this issue—-about the war and I’m just curious. When are you going to aplogize to the American people for not bringing the truth to them that isn’t sponsored by some major corporation?

Moore was pissed! And I liked the constant, "why won't you admit you were wrong? Why won't you apologize to the American people?" That question should be asked of every Bush supporter and every member of the media.

July 8, 2007

The Deliberations Of The Decider

I know I am hammering on this, but I can't get over the contrast between the Christian image this man sells and the actual life.
Crooks and Liars � The Deliberations Of The Decider: "In his memoir, Mr. Bush wrote about agonizing over the case of Karla Faye Tucker, who in 1998 became the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Ms. Tucker, who was convicted in the ax murders of two people during a robbery in 1983, had become a born-again Christian while in prison, and her case drew support from across the political spectrum. Mr. Bush described feeling “like a huge piece of concrete was crushing me” as he waited with aides for Ms. Tucker’s execution. It was, he said, “the longest 20 minutes of my tenure as governor.“"
20 whole minutes. That after mocking her in an interview. That after devoting an entire 30 minutes to reviewing Al Gonzales' truncated reports on each death penalty case before the Governor. Hell, I spent more time agonizing over giving a D or an F to a student. A damn grade. Reversable and often irrelevant. Yet Bush gives less time to deciding the life or death of someone.

That is, until he needs to help Scooter out.

Didn't try hard enough?

But this restores a little faith in Powell.
Powell tried to talk Bush out of war - Times Online : THE former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.

“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

More on Scootergate

Newsweek suggests that Bush actually was well-informed that Scooter had indeed committed this crime.
Behind the scenes, Bush was intensely focused on the matter, say two White House advisers who were briefed on the deliberations, but who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters. Bush asked Fred Fielding, his discreet White House counsel, to collect information on the case. Fielding, anticipating the Libby issue would be on his plate, had been gathering material for some time, including key trial transcripts. Uncharacteristically, Bush himself delved into the details. He was especially keen to know if there was compelling evidence that might contradict the jury's verdict that Libby had lied to a federal grand jury about when—and from whom—he learned the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, wife of Iraq War critic Joe Wilson. But Fielding, one of the advisers tells NEWSWEEK, reluctantly concluded that the jury had reached a reasonable verdict: the evidence was strong that Libby testified falsely about his role in the leak.

The president was conflicted. He hated the idea that a loyal aide would serve time. Hanging over his deliberations was Cheney, who had said he was "very disappointed" with the jury's verdict. Cheney did not directly weigh in with Fielding, but nobody involved had any doubt where he stood. "I'm not sure Bush had a choice," says one of the advisers. "If he didn't act, it would have caused a fracture with the vice president."
Cheney rules yet again and the President shows again that he has two sets of rules--one for the poor slops caught by his inept justice department, and another for his friends.

Another one

Another Republican sees how bad Bush is:
Now, George Bush and his cronies are showing America in the worst possible light. They are illuminating the chasm between the weak and the powerful, the rich and the poor, the connected and the disconnected. They are doing all they can to find a death row cell for the American Dream and when crunch time comes, giving none of us hope for a commutation of that sentence.

I guess it’s no surprise. This administration has found comfort in secret courts, domestic spying, defying Congressional subpoenas, smudging the protective line between church and state, developing policies behind closed doors, ignoring corruption and treating compromise with contempt. When it comes to the big things, they have learned all the wrong lessons from the past. When it comes to getting away with things, they have learned how to succeed on a grand scale.

July 7, 2007

If you like guitars

Check out this MARTIN 000-45 (1928).

Only $75,000.


Bush sharpens budget attack on Democrats - Yahoo! News: "'They are working to bring back the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past,' he said in his weekly radio address.
'Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely.'"
Adding, "Come on! They haven't even invaded a country on false intelligence or subverted the Constitution. They haven't done anything to further ruin our environment. And they call themselves politicians."


In other news, perhaps even the Republicans are tiring of the Vice Tyrant. Cheney fatigue is the subject of many Republican discussions. But who knew Orrin Hatch was so funny?
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, branded as "unfounded" Cheney's claim to extra protections for his office because of his constitutional powers to preside over the Senate and break ties.

"I don't think he handles too many documents in that capacity. He handles a gavel. That's about all he handles," Specter said in an interview.

Added Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: "I don't know what he meant by that. I think he understands what his role is."

Still, Hatch said, Cheney continues to be valuable to the president. "Everybody knows he's a straight shooter. I know that he and the president work very closely together. And I think there's a good reason for it."
Adding, "he hit that old man in the face after only 4 or 5 beers! Of course, the old man apologized later. Which is good."

July 6, 2007

Damn Hippies

Oh wait. This guy was the director of the NSA under Reagan.
To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

Perhaps it is time to put it back on the table.

July 5, 2007

These kids give me hope

From last month, an interesting story where a high school senior attending the Presidential Scholars program handed the President a handwritten letter signed by 50 of these young scholars. The letter urged Bush to halt violating human rights.

Here is a transcript of an interview with one of the students retelling the exchange with the President:
"MARI OYE: He read down the letter. He got to the part about torture. He looked up, and he said, "America doesn’t torture people”. And I said, “If you look specifically at the points we made” -- because we were careful to outline specific things that are wrong with the administration’s policy. He said -- so I said, “If you look specifically at what we said, we said, we ask you to cease illegal renditions,” and then I said, you know, “Please remove your signing statement to the McCain anti-torture bill.” And then I said that for me personally, the issue of detainee rights also had a lot of importance, because my grandparents had been interned during World War II for being Japanese American.

At that point, he just said, “America doesn’t torture people” again. And another kid, actually, from Montana came forward and said, “Please make the US a leader in human rights.” And that happened in the space of about a minute, but it was a very interesting minute with the President of the United States."

Mari Oye went on to tell about her mother's experiences during VN.
AMY GOODMAN: Mari, your mother also was a Presidential Scholar?

MARI OYE: Yes, in 1968, when LBJ was president. And she felt at the time that she wanted to say something about the Vietnam War, but she had an English teacher back at the school she came from who she didn’t want to offend. And the English teacher had stressed that it was important, you know, to stay quiet when you were in the presence of the President. And I’ve had teachers that have stressed the opposite throughout my high school career, and so I thought of them, and I thought of my mother, and I thought of what I would be comfortable with in forty years. And I think we did the right thing while we were there.

AMY GOODMAN: What did your mother say?

MARI OYE: Well, when she found out, she had been touring Washington. Our parents weren’t with us at the time we went to the White House. And she was actually in the Holocaust Museum in the last room, when I called her to say that we had given the letter. She didn’t know there was a letter beforehand, when I called her to tell her what had happened. And she said that she walked out into the bright sunlight with tears streaming down her face, but since a lot of people walk out of the Holocaust Museum that way, you know, no one noticed anything out of the ordinary.
Maybe there is hope after all. If the kids care about illegal rendition then we have something positive for the future.

"Welcome to your opinion, but not your own facts"

One of the disturbing themes coming out of the Libby disaster has been the right's talking point that Plame was not a covert agent and therefore there was no underlying crime. It is fair to point out that Libby was not charged with outing her, but it is not fair to say that she was not a covert agent and I really wish that conservatives would stop saying that. Even the CIA says that she was covert and traveled overseas "in an undercover capacity."
Fitzgerald Says Plame Was a Covert Agent: "A major theme of Libby’s defenders has been that, at the time of her outing, Valerie Wilson was little more than a desk analyst who was not covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act—the 1982 law making it a crime to disclose the identity of a covert officer. Fitzgerald was originally appointed to investigate whether this statute had been violated. But in two memos—and in a document entitled “Unclassified Summary of Valerie Wilson’s CIA Employment and Cover History”—Fitzgerald attempts to shoot down the idea that the agent's job was mostly analysis.

“It was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute”—the Intelligence Identities Act—“as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press,” Fitzgerald wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed late last Friday night.

A spokeswoman for Libby’s defense team declined to comment, saying his lawyers will address the issue when they file their own sentencing memorandum with Judge Walton in the next few days.

In the “unclassified summary” of his memorandum which was based on information cleared by the CIA and became publicly available Tuesday, Fitzgerald provided new details about Wilson’s previously classified activities at the agency. In January 2002, she was working for the agency “as an operations officer” in the Directorate of Operations’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD) and serving as “chief” of a unit with responsibility for weapons-proliferation issues related to Iraq. In that capacity, he added, she traveled overseas in an undercover capacity."

President Defends War on July 4th - washingtonpost.com

Of course he does. And that should not surprise us. Nor, I guess, that he found a small group of people who generally support the president.
President Defends War on July 4th - washingtonpost.com: ""Your service is needed. We need for people to volunteer to defend America," the president said.
Noting, of course, that he had been too busy drinking to defend America when he had the opportunity.
The audience, which was crammed in a corner of a hangar draped with two-story-high American flags, included troops in uniform and the children, spouses, mothers and fathers of serving Guard members.

Most said they are solidly behind the president -- who spent 20 minutes shaking hands after his remarks -- and the mission in Iraq.

"I love him, and my son loves him. He gets the job done," said Donna L. Ruppenthal, of Hedgesville, W.Va., whose son is serving in Iraq."
All due respect to Donna Ruppenthal, of Hedgesvill, W. Va., (and Godspeed to her son in Iraq and best wishes that he return home safe) but what in the world makes her say that "he gets the job done?" What has he done?
"I'm glad we came. I think it helped clear up some confusion and some misgivings about our reasons for being there," said Chris Davis, 56, who has a 26-year-old son in the Guard. "The president gave us some pride, knowing what [our son] is doing for the country."
Again, all due respect to those who are actually paying the price for this disastrous war, but what has the President actually said that explains what we are doing in Iraq besides, "be deathly afraid because the rest of the world wants to kill you in your home?"
Others, however, remained unimpressed. "I've heard it all before," said Patti Scott, 72, of Richmond. "I just don't approve of the war."
At least there was one.

Bush conservatism: "we will prove to you that government sucks"

One of the paradoxes of political life in America. Republicans tell us that governments are corrupt and power hungry, then give us Nixon who proves it. Public internalizes message and blames all politicians--says they are all bad. Now we will see it again. Bush bad mouthed government, then seemed determined to prove to us that it was incompetent. No matter that his flawed predecessor actually made some government programs work. No matter that government programs have done things like reduce poverty, build extensive interstate highways, reduce air and water pollution--hell, one even brought the bald eagle back from extinction. But no matter. Contemporary conservatives have been taught to loathe their government--no distinctions allowed. No real ability to say, hey, maybe everyone isn't as incompetent as this petulant frat boy.

Anyway, here is E. J. Dionne on how that distrust of government undermined the immigration reform effort:
"The skepticism about government is currently directed against Bush, against conservatives and against Republicans. But this should give Democrats little comfort. As Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg argues in the current issue of the American Prospect, "There is a perverse consequence brought about by the scale of conservatives' failure."

The problem, Greenberg says, "is that conservatives have failed in ways that have undermined Americans' sense of collective capacity. Their failure has communicated not just their own incompetence, but also the message that government in general is incompetent."

"By failing so dramatically," Greenberg continues, "conservatives have created a significant roadblock for Democrats: They have undermined people's faith in the very instrument that we as progressives want to use to solve problems.""

July 4, 2007

Hey, those Founders weren't bad

Dan Froomkin - Obstruction of Justice, Continued - washingtonpost.com: "The Framers, ever sensitive to the need for checks and balances, recognized the potential for abuse of the pardon power. According to a Judiciary Committee report drafted in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis: 'In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to 'pardon crimes which were advised by himself' or, before indictment or conviction, 'to stop inquiry and prevent detection.'

James Madison responded:'[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty. . . ."

Have to agree with this

BobGeiger.com: No Joy This Fourth Of July: "George W. Bush has taken our country and made us despised throughout the world, ruined our global reputation in a way that may take a generation to salvage and made us far less safe in a dangerous world. Indeed, he has used our nation's wealth and power to make the world a more dangerous place.His administration has also found a way to diminish a great holiday like our Independence Day, to make us feel less like proudly waving our flag and to even cause many like me, who have worn our country's uniform, to wonder what the hell it was for.And, for that, every American who voted for Bush, should take time this July Fourth to perform a truly patriotic act and be profoundly ashamed."

Dear Mr. President

H/t to Natalie for this Baptist preacher's letter to the President:
"Maybe you feel you’re protected enough to behave in whatever manner you want, to leave democracy and the American people in the dust while you keep your friends happy, but I want you to know I’m tired of it all. For the first time in my adult life I am genuinely alarmed about the kind of country I will be handing off to my kids.

I’m not hoping, of course, that you will see the light, change your ways, fix the damage you’ve done . . . it’s, frankly, far too extensive by now. I just wanted to say: I am disappointed in you . . . disappointed that you don’t have the courage to be a visionary leader to a country with such promise."

4th of July Playlist

You will notice it tends a little dark. No Lee Greenwood. No Toby. Had to work in a Woody Guthrie song, and like Bruce's live version.

Feel free to amend or suggest.

The 4th of July

I will post more on the disaster that is our President. If you missed Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, then check it out. Keith is pissed off. I like it.

But in the meantime, here is my 4th of July post that presents a cynical and jaded hope for a real democracy and real President.

Wasp Jerky pointed to this song in the comments and it is a great damn song. Go download it now. Go. Now.

What are you waiting for? Ok, well, the lyrics are here
"If a song could be president
We’d hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we’d all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We’d vote for a melody
Pass it around on an MP3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We’d fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers’ 45’s
Lightnin’ Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Till we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn’t need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We’d make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the white house lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president"

More on Scooter's deal

H/t to Anglican for this from Slate. Not only does Scooter get much more time, consideration and compassion than he would if he were a black or retarded inmate on Death Row (after all, what is more severe than the death penalty, Mr. President), but his actions directly contradict what his administration's policies are on sentencing. His administration has pushed to preclude judges from even considering all of the elements that the President sited in commuting Scooter's sentence--you know, like Scooter's public service, impact on his family and reputation, etc. When someone else tries to push for those factors to be considered by a trial judge, Bush and his cronies are "tough on crime" and actually backed legislation to make it illegal.

And it isn't just theoretical. In a recent Supreme Court case (US v. Rita) Victor Rita (not a close friend of the President or Vice President) was convicted of lying while giving grand jury testimony.
At sentencing, he argued that he should receive a sentence below the range in the federal guidelines because he was elderly and sick, had served for 24 years as a Marine, including tours in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, and was vulnerable to abuse in prison because he'd worked in criminal justice on behalf of the government.

After receiving a within-the-guidelines sentence of 33 months, Rita appealed on the ground that the sentence was unreasonable given the nature of his offense and his personal circumstances. The Bush administration opposed Rita's appeal.

Silly Victor Rita. How dare he assume that his service in the Marines would matter if he wasn't a close personal friend of the President and had lied under oath to protect our grotesque Vice President.

Worst President in the World.

July 3, 2007

Tony Snow on Bush's "principled" approach

TPMmuckraker July 3, 2007 1:06 PM: " 'the president does not look upon this as granting a favor to anyone.'"

He also says they have to respect the jury system. But, as TPM points out, not the judiciary.

What a crock!

Bush Justice

The Daily Dish: "'Under Bush, some people are imprisoned forever without due process of law while others who receive due process of law and are found guilty are set free. Do I have that right?' - a commenter on TPM.

Yes, you have that right. And these discrepancies often happen in a monarchy where the elite is above the law and decide, based on their own interests, who is and is not subject to the criminal justice system. Paris Hilton did more time than Scooter Libby.

Get angrier."

If only Scooter was a minority or retarded

Bob Cesca writes
What's excessive? President Bush, who suddenly hates excessive punishments, once refused to commute the death sentence of a 33-year-old mentally retarded black man with an IQ of around 60 and the functional skills of a 7-year-old boy.

10 years ago last May, President Bush and Alberto Gonzales received a request for clemency on the day Terry Washington was to be executed for killing a college student in 1987. President Bush skimmed Gonzales' incomplete summary and denied clemency.

Terry Washington was dead before the sun went down.

Regarding the record 152 executions during his two terms as governor, Bush "wrote" in his autobiography, A Charge To Keep, "I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own." He went on to write, "You know what's interesting? I once swallowed a coin." I just made up that second quote, but I like to imagine that he's the kind of guy who has accidentally swallowed a coin or two.

The truth is that commuting Libby's prison term had nothing to do with any sudden outbreak of Bushie sympathy or humanity. After all, this is the same man who literally smiles from ear-to-Vulcanish-ear when talking about warfare and ordering more soldiers into combat in Iraq.

No, the president's decision had everything to do with: 1) a likely deal between the vice president and Libby's attorneys in which Libby promised to keep the scuttlebutt away from Vice President Cheney in exchange for the VPOTUS promising to see what he could do about the sentence; and 2) Scooter Libby isn't poor, black or retarded.

That's it.

Jon Swift points out the connection between conservatives shouting about amnesty for immigrants yet supporting Bush giving amnesty to Scooter for breaking the law:
"Glenn Reynolds, who thought the immigration bill sent a message to legal immigrants that "laws are for suckers" predicted that Bush would rise in the polls as some conservatives rallied to his side for commuting Libby's sentence. Michelle Malkin who has excoriated the President over what she called "shamnesty" for illegal immigrants has been largely silent on the Libby case.

If Bush wants to win back the Republican base, there is something he could do that would win them over on both the immigration issue and on justice for Scooter Libby. He could appoint Libby as the new Immigration Czar and give him sweeping new powers to ruthlessly enforce the rule of law. Working with Federal and local law enforcement, Libby's new agency could round up illegal immigrants that break our laws just by being here. At the same time his recent experience with the legal system would give him the compassion and discretion necessary to deal leniently with the small businessmen and homeowners who just needed workers for their restaurants and factories and day laborers to tend their gardens and lawns. And the annual salary for this new job should be $250,000, which would take care of Libby's fine. "

I called

And here is the number. Contacting the White House: "Comments: 202-456-1111"

Busy for about 15 minutes and then a 5 minute wait to talk to an operator. Nice guy took my call and said they were getting a lot of calls on this. I just said that if Republicans say they believe in the "rule of law" then they should live by it, and that this case makes it more likely that I will never vote for a Republican ever again.

Of course, I didn't tell him I wasn't likely to vote for a Republican anyway, and the entire Bush administration has sealed that deal.


Happy Birthday, America--updated

In the cold light of the morning after, I must say that my outrage has not diminished. As AL noted yesterday, this is "one-off" justice, where the rules are different if you have friends in powerful places. And Chris Matthews (yeah, I braved it last night) was shockingly on point when he noted that if the President were proud of this decision, he would have announced it in the Rose Garden, not released through a statement at the end of business. Well, he better be ashamed. He also did this without even consulting the Justice Department and some of his drones say that he is confident there will be no political damage. Joe Biden is calling on all of us to flood the White House with calls expressing our outrage. I am going to do just that. But I understand the man is at 29 percent on a good day.

But my outrage continues when I am reminded how this President has responded to other people--other people who might be facing an even worse sentence than poor Scooter. Think Progress notes that Bush has granted fewer pardons than any other President in the past 100 years. But the worst is how this man, draped in the Bible and "compassion" dealt with Capital Punishment. The man oversaw the execution of 152 people in Texas--more than any other Governor in modern history. Sister Helen Prejean writes about the President as he oversaw this death machine and I found a couple of passages really revealing of just how unjust this Scooter commutation is. Bush refused to even push for the commutation of mentally retarded defendants on Death Row, and of course, he did that by having a morally challenged legal counsel summarize the death penalty cases in thirty minutes. Yeah, that legal counsel was Al Gonzales, and oh, by the way, do you think that the Scooter case got a little more than thirty minutes?

When Bushy was running for office, he had his ghost writer address the issue of the death penalty because, as you will recall, he ran as a compassionate conservative and "Jesus was his favorite political philosopher."
Bush wrote in his autobiography that it was not his job to "replace the verdict of a jury unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair"
But then again, he also criticized the idea of nation-building and interfering with state courts. Prejean also includes the story that I remember well. Talk magazine interviewed the Governor in 99 in which Tucker Carlson asked the man about the Karla Faye Tucker case (first woman to be executed in Texas in more than a hundred years. Bush was evidently a little curt about the famous people who petitioned him for clemency for Tucker after she converted to Christianity.
Bush went on to tell him that he had also refused to meet Larry King when he came to Texas to interview Tucker but had watched the interview on television. King, Bush said, asked Tucker difficult questions, such as "What would you say to Governor Bush?"

What did Tucker answer? Carlson asked.

"Please," Bush whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "please, don't kill me."

Even Tucker Carlson was shocked at Bush's cruelty. Now, looking back, are we? (That story was overshadowed by another article in the same issue where Hilary Clinton talked about Bill's womanizing. Once again, sex trumps even President Jesus mocking a condemned woman.) And how unbelievable is it that Bush could not care less about the numbers of people sentenced to death but can commute Scooter's sentence before the little traitor serves even one day?

Happy Birthday, America. I feel a little sick.


More on just how morally challenged our President is.
The Washington Monthly: "Taking a step back, however, I keep thinking about a 2001 quote from the president: "[W]e must always maintain the highest ethical standards. We must always ask ourselves not only what is legal, but what is right. There is no goal of government worth accomplishing if it cannot be accomplished with integrity." Six years later, the remarks sound more like a punch-line than an approach to government. It's a reminder of just how big an embarrassment the president is to himself and those around him.

The White House seems to be making a point of emphasizing that the president rejected the rule of law without input from the Department of Justice or outside allies. I'm not sure why this is supposed to make us feel better. The president and his ventriloquist VP got together and decided to fiddle with the sentence of a felonious friend? This is how the chief executive of a democracy is supposed to operate? With two cowards conspiring alone to undermine justice?

Hilzoy's perspective summarized the broader dynamic nicely.

Bush, typically, didn't bother even trying to come up with a decent explanation for what he did. He didn't address questions like: Mightn't this give people the idea that there are two different standards of justice, one for people with powerful connections and another for the rest of us? Is it OK to exempt your friends from the rule of law? Isn't it especially problematic to commute someone's sentence when you yourself might have had a hand in that person's criminal actions? And double especially when no one other than the now-free criminal has been held to account, despite your earlier promises? [...]

His words mean nothing. He wouldn't recognize honor or dignity if they sat down next to him on the bus. He's a narcissistic child with the intellectual curiosity of a limpet, a heart the size of a pea, and a hollow empty void where his character ought to be."

July 2, 2007

Bush Commutes Libby Sentence--updated--again--again

You are all going to have to just forgive me this afternoon. I am a little pissed off about this even as I suspected it was coming. Bush was getting a lot of pressure from that remaining 25% of the American people who don't think he is a complete disaster. No real political capital to spend here.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't piss me off. So if you don't like strong language, go back to surfing for something else. I am going to collect my favorites from the web of people as outraged as I am.


Bush Commutes Libby Sentence | TPMCafe

I don't ever want to hear the phrase "rule of law" from any Bush supporter.

These people suck. Criminals helping each other out.


Or, as Sullivan put it:
"Perjury in defense of wartime deception is now okay, as far as the president is concerned. I'm surprised by Bush's chutzpah. I retained some minimal respect. No longer. We now know full well what his beliefs are: the law is for other people, not himself, his friends or his apparatchiks. "

Exactly. Laws are for chumps. Rules are for chumps. The constitution is for chumps. Bush, according to the WaPo this morning, thinks he is doing God's work.

God needs better employment screening processes.


Bush: Rule of Law My Ass at Shakesville: Bush: Rule of Law My Ass
Published by Mustang Bobby July 2nd, 2007

From the New York Times: "President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis ”Scooter” Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term on Monday, issuing an order that commutes his sentence.

The next time I hear some Republican carry on about The Rule of Law, I’m going to find something rather large with a lot of splinters on it — an industrial-strength fencepost comes to mind — and plant it in them where the sun does not shine.

Jesus H. Christ in a birchbark canoe.

But then again, what the fuck did you expect.


For a pretty reasoned approach, I like The Anonymous Liberal and he once again nails this with his post: " One-Off Justice, Republican Style"
So apparently President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby's prison sentence, ensuring that he will spend no time in prison for the multiple felonies of which he has been convicted. Because this is not a full pardon, I presume the President believes that Libby did in fact commit these crimes. And because he is not pushing Congress to change the sentencing guidelines that apply to crimes like perjury and obstruction of justice, I presume he thinks that they are fair and reasonable (at least when applied to people not named Scooter).

So what we have here is a case of one-off justice, Republican style. Libby, apparently, doesn't deserve to be treated the way the law demands that others be treated. He's special. And what makes him special? Clearly nothing other than the fact that he is a well-connected Republican.

It's hard for me to put into words how totally indefensible I find this move. While I can't say I'm surprised, the reality of it is still a little shocking to me. It's just so brazenly unprincipled. If I were Patrick Fitzgerald (or really any of the prosecutors who devoted time and energy to this case), I would quit in protest. To go through a two year investigation and a lengthy trial (all the while dealing with countless motions filed by a team of lawyers doing everything they can to stall the process), to finally win a resounding conviction, and then to have the sentence commuted for no apparent reason other than the fact that the convicted felon is a close friend of the Vice President (and likely lied to protect him), well, that must be pretty difficult to take for people like Fitzgerald who have devoted their entire careers to the criminal justice system. That's how justice works in banana republics. It's not supposed to be the way our system works.


Question of the Day at Shakesville: Is there a bigger asshole in America right now than George Bush? If your answer is yes, make your case.

(Let’s grant that Cheney’s at least a tie…)


Different Bush: "And you know at the end of his term Bush 43 will issue Scooter a full pardon so all those crowing that Scooter is still suffering will be get the happy ending…mcjoan has the reactions from the Democrats posted…

Bush 41: “I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.”

On September 30, 2003, just after this investigation began, the President said:

“If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is . . . If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.”

We now know exactly what he meant."

Be very afraid

Al Gore writes in his new book about the culture of fear (thanks to Mary for our copy, btw) and while I have not explored his explanation fully, I think that has become our watchword in America. It isn't just the politicians who do it, though Rudy Guiliani and Joe Lieberman use it often (Lieberman on This Week) and George Bush and Dick Cheney raised it to an art form. The way they have all used alleged terrorist plots from the ridiculous (the JFK pipeline bombing) to the actual, yet over-hyped plot in London over the weekend, politicians have used every opportunity to scare us senseless.

But it isn't just them. Watching television last night, an ad ran for ADT home security. A woman and her child are awakened by a noise. They run to the box in the hall where a voice asks them if they are ok. They are thankful that ADT is "taking care of their family." Be afraid.

And our local weatherman is part of it. An ad that runs on our CBS affiliate caught the eye of the Daily Show because it is one of the scariest ads promoting a weather department I have ever seen. Be afraid.

Our culture seems to feed on fear, and in no area quite as much as with the children. (Here, I always hear Mrs. Lovejoy (from the Simpsons) constantly asking, "Won't someone think of the children.") One of my friends noted the other day how afraid he was to let his kids ride their bikes in his development. He noted that he rode around his neighborhood all the time at a very young age. But things are different, he said, and he really wondered. Hell, he noted, Halloween was scarier now because we are always worried about razor blades in the apples and poisoned candy bars.

So are we more at risk? Is our society in a moral free fall? Snopes takes on the Halloween story and points out there are no documented cases of anonymous tampering with Halloween candy. There aren't great numbers on child abductions (oddly enough) but the available data suggests that children are much more likely to be abducted in a family dispute or by someone they know than by that vicious stranger down the block. That study places the number in 1999 of stranger abductions at around 115 for the entire country. Roughly the same amount of people who are killed by lightening strikes each year.

Are there risks out there? Of course. But we have to do something about how our culture sells fear. We might start with our politicians. We can do better than these people. And while not an endorsement for the man, let me note that one politician declined to follow the Guiliani/Bush/Cheney/Rove playbook of scaring the hell out of us. Michael Bloomberg, when asked about the supposed JFK plot, noted:
'You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life. You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist.'

No wonder he left the Republican party. Now it is time for the Democrats to return to the days of FDR and remind us that fear is our enemy, not a campaign ploy.